Tauranga city councillors this week kept a promise made to the Ngai Tamarawaho Hapu 14 years ago, and has agreed to sell or gift the land occupied by Mobil Chapel Street to the hapu.
The reason for the decision lies in a promise made by the council to the hapu in 2004, when the city wanted the land on Chapel Street for the second harbour bridge.
The first land swap was to be for car park land at the Tauranga end of the railway bridge. When the council decided the southern pipeline would pass though that land it reneged on the agreement.
The possibility of 60 Chapel Street was the next property, and even though the council no longer required the harbourside restaurant carpark land, it has not been spoken of again.
“This particular issue today started 14 years ago,” says Ngai Tamarawaho spokesperson Buddy Mikaere.
“Entitlement to the land in Dive Crescent as you councillors all know was given up in return for NZTA being able to construct the off-ramp from the harbour bridge.
“At that time the council's promise was that we would receive a replacement piece of land in exchange. That piece of land was identified as being the land end of the railway bridge. We were subsequently asked to give that land up so the council's pipeline project could proceed.
“We now have the situation where seven years ago we were promised the land at Chapel Street as being a replacement for that which we had given up. So this is momentous day for us as well.”
The hapu previously offered to buy the land off the council at the 2007 value, using the lease payments. Details of the price and sale process have been kept confidential with chief executive Garry Poole empowered to negotiate.
The sale is been opposed by ratepayers Rob Paterson and Robert King who say the original deal which they claim is itself suspect, was a swap for non-commercial land.
Chapel Street's valuation by Colliers in February 2017 is $2.6m land value plus $1m improvements, giving a total value of $3.6m.
Councillor Larry Baldock says the issue isn't the final price that will be obtained by the council, it's the fulfilment of the council's promise made in 2004.
He finds it amazing the hapu gave the council the land in the first place, given the history between Tauranga City and Ngai Tamarawaho going back to the 1840s.
“They gave up that right to hold onto the land which in the understanding of the day was very clearly going to be given to them in the treaty settlement,” says Larry.
“Without their consent there would be no bridge today and I would add to that that there would be no Route K, no Route J, no Route P. All of those roads have bene achieved for the benefit of our city with their generous co-operation.”
The council promised to enter negotiations to buy Chapel Street in 2006.
“For us it was a sweet deal because we could see the Crown coming along, buying Chapel Street and giving it to them. It would cost us nothing because the land in Dive Crescent we bought and then sold to NZTA, and it didn't cost us - a little bit of a difference in valuation, but by and large it was at no cost to council,” says Larry.
“We thought we had a good deal here until in 2011 OTS said ‘We don't go round buying land'. It's obvious why they didn't because there would be no end to it.”
He agreed with Mayor Greg Brownless that it is not about the treaty, it's about the council promise.
“It's not just about keeping the promise. We need to consider about not keeping the promise, and consider the benefits we have received for the promise. We need to consider the compensation for the delay in fulfilling that promise.”